Genre: Indie Folk // Released: 2014
Death sucks. That goes without saying, especially now, yet we never seem to grow tired of those artists who explore the topic, at least where broached with due care and respect. Those aren’t words I would typically associate with Mark Kozelek, were I to fixate on the brash manner in which he tends to conduct himself in the public sphere, but that’s exactly what Benji is: intensely contemplative and deeply respectful. The arbitrary injustice of that senseless equaliser is addressed via anecdote, through tales whose underlying meaning (or lack thereof) is seldom unpacked. The tragedy of Jim Wise is recounted without passing judgement, favourable or otherwise. Purpose isn’t grafted onto Carissa’s passing, although Mark searches. Micheline and Brett are mourned, with no overarching narrative plastered over their loss. There’s no silver lining to be coloured in; no higher meaning to be gleaned or uncovered. It is what it is. Yet this acceptance of meaninglessness is meaningful, in and of itself, and with it Benji becomes more than just another folk record about death. Unadorned and matter-of-fact, absent vague platitudes and superficial conjecture: it’s the real deal. And it’s terrifying. – Asleep
Genre: Hip-Hop/Experimental // Released: 2012
With what is now a rather formidable catalogue of abrasive hip-hop, Death Grips have carved their festering, phallic-shaped mark onto the past decade, despite the pleas of many to ‘put down the fucking knife’. Yet for a group with a sound as infamous and readily identifiable as theirs, the trio have done well to avoid setting any semblance of precedent for what to expect next. Restlessly eager to subvert, alienate and obfuscate – in their absurd online presence as much as their music – the band have twisted the glitchy, oddball sound that they pioneered into entirely new shapes with each noided release. With a refreshing willingness to toy around with unconventionality and test the limits of good taste, Death Grips have cemented themselves as one of the most perplexing and rewarding acts in recent memory. And we owe it all – the whole glorious, steaming, wonderful mess – to The Money Store.
Flitting precariously between toe-tapping accessibility and off-the-wall experimentation, their foundational debut LP sparked a furious (and, with hindsight, rather silly) debate upon its release. The porousness of genre-boundaries was questioned, with some refusing to accept that ‘hip-hop’ could be stretched in so many different directions at once (it can). Others went further, condemning the project as a redundant gimmick: absent of genuine creativity and unworthy of celebration. I’m not convinced that a consensus was ever reached. Case in point: if you were to maintain that The Money Store is “pseudo-intellectual music for non-hip hop fans”, I would be minded to refer to you as a condescending, self-aggrandising prat. But consensus is boring, and I’m glad it’s absent here. Indeed, what would this site be without decent debate and a healthy dose of name-calling? What would we do without those artists with the vision and sheer gall to provoke such levels of discourse? Where would we be without Death Grips? – Asleep
Genre: Indie Pop/Dream Pop // Released: 2017
I’m not sure if I’m just projecting, but I believe that everyone feels far more than we believe they do. If I let myself empathize with other people’s feelings, like everyone, I am quickly overwhelmed by emotion when I let other people in. I think this shows that people are just full of feeling, even when we pretend not to be. The moral of the story isn’t to be paralyzed by emotions – it’s to be more emotionally open than we are. When Lorde made this, we would have forgiven her for taking longer to make a perfect LP, which she has shown she could have done. Instead, she made something that was so emotionally honest it didn’t matter how flawed it was for those moments of pure feeling. “Please could you be tender” is not asking for someone to silence their aggressions but to louden their love, a moment we needed so much more in this era of detachment. – Granite
27. Altar Of Plagues – Teethed Glory and Injury
Genre: Post Black Metal // Released: 2013
When Teethed Glory and Injury first dropped in 2013 I’ll admit, I wasn’t exactly the greatest Altar Of Plagues fan. Having given the album a cursory spin it became clear that opinions were going to change quickly, and for the better. Personally, it’s an album that spoke to me in a key few moments of my life. Needless to say, Teethed Glory and Injury had me gripped from “Mills” ominous tones. Largely, Teethed Glory and Injury bridged a mental impasse I had with some poignant “real-life” moments. There were questions, centred around apprehension, doubt, hope and longing – but it’s the gentle caress of hope that litters the abrasive torment, contrasting with the likes of “God Alone”, “Burnt Year”.
Even as the album progressed past its introspective layerings and industrial darkness there were moments that grew with consecutive listenings. Altar Of Plagues was never a band to be taken at a face value. “A Body Shrouded” builds on itself, creating a melting pot of atmosphere, before crushing the listener under cacophonous emotion. No two parts of Altar Of Plagues 2013 effort conform to the same methods, turning their story over one page at a time. “Scald Scar of Water” comes in at full-tilt, capitulating on the sinister contrasts between moods. For some, Teethed Glory and Injury will sit at a personal high, but it’s well within respectable peers considering the quality to be found within this list. All in all, the extremities of Altar Of Plagues will be renowned for quite some time to come. – Nocte
Genre: Indie Rock/Post Rock // Released: 2013
Imagine releasing an unknown album that suddenly explodes out of nowhere a month later. Unknown indie/post rock band There Will Be Fireworks did the impossible with that unknown status and touched the hearts of their following and brought in tons of new listeners, and for good reason. It’s driven by their relatable subjects of heartache. struggling with faith, self destructive behavior and coming to grips with growing up. They also managed to create a unique blend of indie/post rock that truly stands out on its own.
In the end, the album is topped off with a closer called ‘The Good Days’ that proves ever so timeless and heartbreaking due to the world’s circumstances. Plus, every track is accompanied by a breathtaking vocal performance that’s both heart in its delivery and raw in its heritage and power. When all is said and done, the listener will never forget the strings climax of ‘Here Is Where’ and the fan favorite “IN TIME!” delivery in ‘River.’ – Mongi123
When I joined Sputnik back in 2016, a crooked, somber figure called Nick Cave had just released an album called Skeleton Tree. At the time, I wasn’t familiar with his works, but I had just discovered a portal to an insane amount of new music, and like some of you when you joined the site, I was hungry and ready for anything. When the atmosphere of “Jesus Alone” fell over me like a black starless sky, I felt as amazed as I felt helpless, falling down the abyss of sorrow and despair that is Skeleton Tree, with just a few notes here and there to cushion the fall while Nick whispered out tales of his broken spirit straight into my ears.
It takes losing a son to write an album like this. It demands an insurmountable tragedy that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy to create an album that swells the kind of pain festering from Skeleton Tree. Far from being a healing experience for Nick Cave, his 16th album with the Bad Seeds turned out very differently from what a ten, twenty years younger Cave would have schemed. In creating one of the most exhilarating works of his career, Nick, the man, lost a part of himself that would never be recovered. He died, not just a little, but a great deal, shedding off the old skin to become a not necessarily better version of himself, but one that still was gifted with enough penmanship to turn the unwanted wisdom granted by the death of his son into the thin thread weaving and keeping together this dark and lonely Skeleton Tree. –Dewinged
Genre: Indie Rock/Folk Punk // Released: 2017
I recently had my first religious experience in ten years to this album. I’ve never been particularly religious, despite my father’s best intentions. But listening to “Persevere” while driving back home through golden hour in Hollywood–a dream that became reality only recently–was enough to break me down. Despite being an atheist himself, the way David Le’aupepe described his bereaved friend’s argument for faith was enough to put a crack in my agnostic armor, and I truly understood why someone would believe in God.
This song is just one example of how Le’aupepe’s songwriting is able to so fully facilitate the listener’s understanding of his world. That’s the key to this album, understanding others and yourself. Reeling from a series of hellish traumas, this album was a way for him to heal. This cathartic nature easily spills over into the listener, and each rollicking indie tune or meditative slow-burner is crafted with an exquisite attention to detail. When the life-affirming powerhouses inevitably come, they aren’t met with an eye-roll, but with the understanding that things really can work out in the end. Gang of Youths’ mission is to show that there really is a light at the end of the tunnel, and this album is all the proof you need. – Neek
Genre: Alternative/Metal // Released: 2010
Listening to Diamond Eyes for the first time, I finally got Deftones. I had heard White Pony and appreciated aspects of it–the goth rock-inspired tone, the band’s skill at crafting memorable riffs–but in my estimation, it still didn’t escape the angsty trappings of nu-metal. (It didn’t help that the version I picked up was the version that opened with “Back to School.”) But I heard Diamond Eyes and immediately fell in love. The album showcased a level of maturity far surpassing anything on White Pony, with tracks like “Beauty School” and “Sextape” approaching an almost uplifting tone, while world-shaking riffs and dark, goth rock sensibilities still kept the experience definitively Deftones. Not only was it a deeply enthralling experience in itself, but it also allowed me to revisit the band’s earlier work with new ears. I realized that the maturity and songwriting craft were always present, especially on White Pony, and I gained a new appreciation for the hard work Deftones put into their music to separate themselves from their nu-metal peers. White Pony may have been a landmark in alternative metal, but Diamond Eyes cemented Deftones’ legacy by showcasing, in one neat package, what makes the band so special. – hesperus
Genre: Metalcore/Math Rock // Released: 2010
The Dillinger Escape Plan’s warpath has been memorialised as one of the most intense and consistently high-quality outputs music has to offer. Frenetic dissonant assaults were the band’s mainstay to critical acclaim; however, the output in their final decade integrated their signature sound with more melodic aspirations. With their first attempt in this vein, the band struck gold. Moments such as the elegant piano passage in ‘I Wouldn’t if You Didn’t’, which re-engages the listener after the exhausting display of fury that preceded it, demonstrate the benefit of juxtaposing their brand of chaos with moments of beauty. The abundance of infectious hooks and adrenaline-filled drum work made the album as instantly gratifying as it is easily admirable for its technical merits. As fittingly described by the lyrics of ‘Farewell, Mona Lisa’, Option Paralysis stands as another monument to the band’s ethos of striving to innovate and refine their approach to music. – CalculatingInfinity
Genre: Hip-Hop // Released: 2016
When this album came out, I listened to it once, and didn’t get much out of it. “White Ferrari” was pretty. About a year later, I tried again. I was having one of the worst summers of my life, and it (especially “Nights”) spoke to me. I still had issues with it (Why were there so many interludes? Why was “Futura Free” so long? Why was “Pretty Sweet” even there?), so I made my own custom combination of Blonde and Endless with my favorite tracks and listened to it most nights to help me rest long enough to sleep for a few months. Then life got better, so it took me two years to come back to it, this time in its original form, thanks mostly to one very difficult and cold morning when I felt totally alone. I know people don’t care about my personal history, but I feel like everyone has a story like that with this album. That’s what Blonde does so right – it makes the hyperspecific universal. Frank Ocean lives nothing like the rest of us, but if you haven’t hoped you were taller in another dimension, you will. – granite
Genre: Math Rock/Post Hardcore // Released: 2018
Metalcore kids really do love post-rock. There’s a sly point to be made about using one dying genre to save another, but reducing Time Will Die… to the sum of its parts like this overlooks the main deal: true to its title, the album is a triumphant force of vitality, gazing toward a brighter future. Rolo Tomassi’s work has always felt like a vibrant creative outpouring, but with a darker, more turbulent edge. This album sees them exorcise most of these qualities, resulting in their most seamless, expansive and uplifting album to date.
A lot of things could have gone wrong; ‘posi-vibes mathcore’ may as well be an anagram of ‘stale cheese’. Fortunately, there’s enough grit to keep the band’s spark alive – just you try sitting still during “Whispers Among Us” – and its elegant qualities make their mark. All this comes together in “A Flood of Light”, the album’s statement track and the strongest of its long cuts. There’s something momentous and majestic about it that didn’t make sense to me at first; it clearly had stakes, but I couldn’t tell what they were in aid of, or why such a crushing song was so keen to hold so tightly to its melodic frills.
Catching it live cleared the fog. They played it for the encore after “Estranged”, a personal favourite and hands down their nastiest track. “Estranged” was an insular experience of ferocious beatdowns and mangled rhythms; I dare say we all but forgot we were part of a crowd at all, tunnel-visioned under a pummelling. It was a blast but “A Flood of Light” won the night for the opposite reasons: sharing the moment in a sea of dazed fans waving their phone torches, the song’s rapturous qualities finally made perfect sense to me – it was one of those larger than life brought-together-by-music moments powerful enough to escape the cliche. And so it goes for Time Will Die…: the best heavy bands succeed by treating that label as a springboard, not a virtue; this album exemplifies this. – Johnny
Genre: Metalcore/Hardcore // Released: 2012
It’s because of records like All We Love We Leave Behind that Converge command the near unparalleled level of respect that they do. It’s also why their fans continue to demand so much from them, even after almost 30 years. Crushing mathcore ferocity, tempered with a careful eye for atmosphere and pacing: the band’s eighth full-length is a towering achievement within the genre, representing a culmination of everything we’ve come to love about Bannon and co. Such is their prestige and unquestioned rule that I tend to forget just how unpleasant their sound can be to the uninitiated. Songs like ‘Trespasses’ and ‘Tender Abuse’ inevitably provoke an unimpressed sigh from my better half, whilst even the group’s calmer cuts receive a well-practiced “but it’s just noise” retort. Indeed, I’m unable to share my love for the group other than through online forums and hyperbolic AOTD blurbs (ahem). In a weird way, I kind of like that. Whilst the band’s relative inaccessibility certainly doesn’t make them unique, and nor would I dare to suggest that Converge of all bands are under-hyped, I do think there’s a reassuring feeling of belonging that comes with an infatuation with their murky, underground sound. For every year Converge refuse to mellow and stagnate, that sense of community and ownership is sustained. Continually uncompromising and unflinchingly heavy, they remain ours; not theirs. And that’s cool. – Asleep
Genre: Noise Rock/Post Rock/Experimental // Released: 2012
Larger-than-life terror is the lifeblood of The Seer, a lumbering beast of an album roaming poorly-lit streets in the dead of the night, pausing to stoop its lolling head down to windows and leer at people as they sleep on, ignorant of the vile, lurking behemoths of the void that could snuff them out of existence on a whim.
The first time I listened to The Seer my conception of what music can and should be was completely altered. To learned experimental music stans, ubiquitous discourse of this nature surrounding Swans revival albums is probably frustrating. Regardless, The Seer is the groundbreaking progenitor of the most bizarrely popular strain of Swans yet, and I struggle to see the influence of its monolithic, teeth-gritting, hypnotic, otherworldly, the-sky-is-no-fucking-limit dedication to a singular vision as anything but a testament to the benefits of enabling and encouraging challenging art into existence.
Gira inundated us with content following The Seer’s success, and the fruits of his labour were compelling and worthwhile, but the The Seer stands above its offspring for spawning the wild, unpredictable arrangements that now feel so familiar, for demonstrating that a two hour runtime can feel like a [violent galeforce] breeze when presented with enough finesse, and for showcasing a variety of alternative genres in a way original enough to impress experienced listeners, while seducing a new generation of fans into becoming noise-loving weirdos at the expense of ever being asked for music recommendations by their peers again. – MiloRuggles
Genre: Electronic/Pop // Released: 2015
I’ve been venting about metalheads praising this as “surprisingly great” or “really good for a pop album” all decade. And I stand by that – if your standard assumption is that music sung by women with synthesizers is bad, you need to open your mind and stop being a sexist asshole. But, provided you’re not a dick about it, I get why people who normally aren’t into pop love this album. It’s not that it does anything particularly different, it just has a really, really high standard of quality that is relatively unique not to pop music specifically but to music as a whole.The songs on here that don’t seem amazing only do so because the others are so terrific. How could they stand up to the gorgeous, wavy ballad “All That,” the effortlessly funky dance-in-your-room “Boy Problems” or “Let’s Get Lost,” the classic anthems “Run Away With Me” and “I Really Like You” (which criminally didn’t chart as high as it should have)? Most of all, how do you compete with the eponymous track or the flawless finale? There’s just so much absolute perfection here, it’s really easy to see why it’s so beloved, even among people who would have never given it a chance otherwise. – granite
Genre: Indie Rock/Post Punk // Released: 2013
People talk a lot about the National being a boring band. Well done. It makes me think of the English lit teachers who are contractually obliged to congratulate half-bright try-hard kids for picking up on a stylisation within a single line in a prescribed text while remaining almost willfully blind to the sense of the overall work. Like, hello – yes – thank you – full marks for that contribution, have a positive comment on your report card and a bloody hanamaru while we’re at it… all of which is expressed in advance of vehement, unvoiced sentiments of couldn’t someone else have put their hand up?
The National have a remarkable way of expressing deeply unremarkable things, and Trouble Will Find Me ranks alongside Boxer as the record that best exemplifies this. If Boxer was a belatedly affronted cry of “Oh my God I hate my job” served with a few sprinklings of romance and vestigial youth, Trouble Will Find Me is a sigh of resignation witnessed and recorded after accidentally making and holding eye contact with oneself in the shaving mirror, thereby coming to the abrupt realisation that you really are stuck being that arsehole for the rest of your life. How boring.
That’s how it goes, I guess: no need for bells, whistles or pandering to the music-saved-my-life brigade. Most people’s life stories are boring. Getting old is boring. Depression is boring. Marriage is probably boring (fuck me if I know). A near-perfect voicing of an ordinary story is always going to be punching if it’s aimed at a crowd beyond the formalists, and yet The National are extraordinary for how they make unextraordinary substance and unextravagant composition convincingly and compelling their own. Look at how “Sea of Love” has enough hallmarks of indie kitsch to have been an Arcade Fire cover, but is elevated to a horribly arresting snapshot of romantic split ends by Matt Berninger’s subtly desperate performance; look at how the opener “I Should Live In Salt” turns an irregular 17/8 rhythm into a straightforward dirge as though it were the natural voicing in the world; look at how “This Is The Last Time” is one of the most adamantly evasive songs in the game as far as climaxes and hashtag-catharsis are concerned, yet it lands with the same force as The National’s most thunderous fare (“Terrible Love”, “Squalor Victoria”, etc). Desperation doesn’t need to be dramatic, and an unraised voice with enough conviction can be more powerful than all distortion pedals in the world chained together.
Still awake? Right! Trouble Will Find Me is masterfully crafted, but it comes off as a downer album so sold on its own slump that the listener has to put in a little legwork of their own. Those without the time or inclination to do their own digging will likely come out unrewarded and remain unsympathetic; good thing Trouble Will Find Me sounds washed up enough not to give two shits for sympathy in the first place. Someone remind the cheap thrills gang to stay at home for this one. –Johnny
Genre: Pop Punk/Indie Rock // Released: 2016
Maybe I’m the wrong person to write about the fifteenth best album of the decade when I’m the one who strongly thinks Jeff’s We Cool? is the superior album. No matter, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Worry may have the most impressive streak of nonstop pop punk songs ever to be put to record while retaining a fervent energy and emotional impact for nearly 40 minutes. I’ll admit it, it’s altogether a cleaner, more complex and better written album when compared to his past releases, and with a song like ‘Staring Out the Window at Your Old Apartment’ hitting you way too hard not even a year after it’s release, it’s even harder to argue for his previous material to take this spot instead. Maybe I was just a bit jealous of having to now share Jeff Rosenstock with the rest of the pop punk world as this album certainly elevated him to a level of fame not seen even in his BTMI! days. This is cathartic and anthemic, almost annoyingly so, especially when it’s able to sprout out these seeds of helplessness while finding comfort in the ones you love with such ease and sauveness. I can’t, however, ignore how impactful the ending to this album is, especially when ‘The Fuzz’ introduces such a relatable concept of needing the comforting love of others, yet sarcastically and bitterly declaring such a thing “doesn’t exist” and is just a ghost in the catchiest, craziest vocal performance on the album in ‘Perfect Sound Whatever’, an aptly named closer for an even more appropriately titled album. I guess there’s some good that can come out of Worry, although I wish the same could be said for real life. – Con
Genre: Indie Folk // Released: 2010
During his brilliant 2009 Tiny Desk session, Kristian was asked why it is that he performs. Following a particularly animated rendition of ‘The Gardener’, his body language suddenly shifted inwards. Reluctantly, he mumbled the following: “It’s hard to … I don’t know what it is but … I guess, in everyday life … it’s hard to look people in the eyes. And you can’t really scream at them like this. A happy scream, you know? But I got the chance, and I took it.” I’m sure glad he did.
It’s fair to say I’ve lived with The Tallest Man On Earth for quite a few years now (an inconvenient housemate to squeeze into a one room apartment, believe me). As our time together stretches on, it’s not just his rich, cryptic lyricism that keeps me captivated, but how painfully urgent and utterly genuine The Wild Hunt sounds to this day. When Kristian yelps some vague thing about a directionless driver on ‘You’re Going Back’, I’m ashamed to say I have absolutely no idea what he’s talking about. I’m convinced that I used to, the meaning having since slipped from my grasp, yet this doesn’t really bother me. Why would it, when the passion, conviction and sheer bloody charisma behind the man’s gravely voice still cuts to my core after all this time?
To impose such a reductive analysis on a cornerstone of modern folk may be a tad unfair, I’ll concede; but getting lost in Kristian’s tangled web of metaphor and poetry (as opposed to actively navigating it in the manner I used to) has just become second nature. Intended meaning is supplanted by my personal experience with the record: of drunken, solitary evenings losing my voice to ‘Love is All’; of accidentally kicking my fridge in a misguided attempt to cook and dance with the ‘King of Spain’; and of seeing the faces of my immediate family light up when they each first heard the title track, having successfully persuaded (forced) them to give it a go. I’m sure my decade wouldn’t have been the same without The Wild Hunt, and The Wild Hunt certainly isn’t the same after all of my time with it. And yet, thinking about it, I suppose nothing has really changed. Eyes to the floor and beaming like an idiot, I’ll scream along all the same. – Asleep
Genre: Hip-Hop/R&B // Released: 2010
There’s nothing I can say here that anyone reading a list like this won’t have read a thousand times already. Easily one of the most critically acclaimed albums of all time, Fantasy is widely recognized as a powerhouse. It’s an album everyone has a take on, and yet, somehow, it is almost universally considered to be great. I don’t have a hot take here (except maybe that the Fergie verse in “All of the Lights” is a standout moment) – it really is great. This is the culmination of all of Kanye’s efforts up to this point, a combination of College Dropout‘s lyrical ambition, Late Registration‘s orchestral maximalism, Graduation‘s arena-ready sampling, and 808s and Heartbreak‘s autotuned passion. These efforts and styles are layered on top of each other, creating perhaps the most intentional Kanye album ever, every second painstakingly perfected. The only thing that happens on accident is that despite West’s best attempts to merely make an apology project full of sounds he knew he could do well, this still managed to be yet another reinvention of the wheel. – granite
Genre: Alternative/Americana // Released: 2012
There are some albums that feel like they just had to be made. I’m not referring to those records with a notable legacy, or those that made an impact on the broader musical discourse, but rather to certain LPs that radiate an elusive, urgent necessity: to the by-products of an irrepressible, creative urge, one that appears beyond the control or, perhaps, understanding of the artist in question, and yet deeply integrated with (and owed, in no small part, to) whatever existential turbulence they were experiencing at the time.
A rather lofty and unsubstantiated sentiment, you could say; and you’d probably be right (don’t say I didn’t warn you). Verifying that sensation is certainly no easy task, at least with regards to an individual piece of art, given one can usually only observe the output of the process, detached from the impetus that birthed it. And yet I’m sure it’s something most of us have experienced, whether in our own ill-conceived attempts at creative expression or through engaging with the art of others. Indeed, when listening to On the Impossible Past– what is, indisputably, the best The Menzingers record – that elusive feeling is all I hear.
From its infamous opening line to the sobering societal critique of its closer, On the Impossible Past exudes sincerity. It’s why Greg and Tom’s rose-tinted romanticization of juvenile recklessness continues to resonate with quite so many of us; why their measured dismantling of the illusion that is the American Dream doesn’t choke on its own cliché; and why those sloppy, 4-chord bangers are all that they needed to be to elevate their tales of self-doubt and growing up (or a close approximation thereof) to the towering levels of anthemic glee that they achieve. That heartfelt, creative force is the centre of it all, channelled by four, ordinary blokes into each nostalgia-tinged riff and endlessly quotable refrain. In doing so, the lads inadvertently wrote the book on angsty, sad-boi punk rock: a weighty tome that has stood the test of time and, like it or not, has rightly earned its place as one of the greatest musical achievements of the past decade. – Asleep
Genre: Stoner Rock // Released: 2013
Despite frontman Josh Homme’s constant swagger, “Queens of the Stone Age” was always a telling name for the band. After rejecting “Kings of the Stone Age” as “too macho,” Homme and co.’s music aimed to surpass their hyper-masculine contemporaries with blistering cock-rock riffs, all while proving themselves capable of more grace and empathy than most bands in the scene could muster. And for the majority of their career, they pulled this off with an admirable degree of success.
But things changed. The specifics are often mistaken, misinformed, and misquoted, but at some point between Era Vulgaris and …Like Clockwork, Josh Homme almost died. Staring into the face of death and coming back with a decade-defining album is the stuff of legends already, but the way Homme comes to terms with his demons on this record is truly timeless. Doubling down on the muscular insanity on tracks like “My God Is the Sun” and “Smooth Sailing,” …Like Clockwork manages to be the first Queens album with a balanced banger-to-ballad ratio, rather than peppering in a couple feelsy tunes here and there to change things up. This doesn’t feel like a conscious, calculated effort to top their previous work, but merely an extension of Homme fully accepting himself and coming to terms with the music he wants to make. Without the cloud of excessive masculinity, both sides of their sound embrace to form tracks like the single best song rock ever created, “I Appear Missing.”
This embracing of emotional androgyny is not only fantastically modern and a huge leap for the band, but also meant a lot to a certain high-school junior who discovered this album for the first time. In a world that’s become increasingly polarized, it’s important to be constantly reminded that the only voice worth finding is your own. This is the album where Homme found his. In doing so, Queens of the Stone Age finally owned their name, and in the best way possible. –Neek
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